Laurelhurst Drive Fee Owner LLC et al v. Gram

Filing 3

ORDER signed by District Judge Troy L. Nunley on 5/26/2017 ORDERING that this case is REMANDED to the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento. Defendant's 2 Motion to Proceed IFP is GRANTED. Copy of remand order sent to other court. CASE CLOSED. (Zignago, K.)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 11 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 12 13 14 LAURELHURST DRIVE FEE OWNER LLC, et al., Plaintiffs, 15 16 17 ORDER REMANDING CASE v. VICKI GRAM, Defendant. 18 19 No. 2:17-cv-01096-TLN-CKD This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendant Vicki Gram’s (“Defendant”) Notice 20 of Removal and motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1–2.) For the reasons set forth 21 below, Defendant’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis is GRANTED. The Court hereby 22 REMANDS the action to the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento, due to lack of 23 subject matter jurisdiction. 24 I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY 25 On April 25, 2017, Plaintiffs Laurelhurst Drive Fee Owner LLC and Laurelhurst Drive 26 Fee Owner II LLC (“Plaintiffs”) filed an unlawful detainer action in the Superior Court of 27 California, County of Sacramento. (Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1 at 1.) On May 25, 2017, 28 Defendant filed a Notice of Removal in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of 1 1 California. (ECF No. 1.) Defendant asserts that removal is proper because (i) “[t]he complaint 2 presents federal questions” and (ii) “[f]ederal question exists because Defendant’s Answer, a 3 pleading that depends on the determination of Defendant’s rights and Plaintiff’s [sic] duties under 4 federal law.” (ECF No. 1 at 2–3, ¶¶ 5, 8.) For the reasons stated below, this Court finds that 5 subject matter jurisdiction does not exist and thus this case must be remanded. 6 II. 7 28 U.S.C. § 1441 permits the removal to federal court of any civil action over which “the 8 district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Removal is 9 proper only if the court could have exercised jurisdiction over the action had it originally been 10 STANDARD OF LAW filed in federal court. Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). 11 Courts “strictly construe the removal statute against removal jurisdiction,” and “the 12 defendant always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 13 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992) (per curiam). Furthermore, “[i]f the district court at any time 14 determines that it lacks jurisdiction over the removed action, it must remedy the improvident 15 grant of removal by remanding the action to state court.” California ex rel. Lockyer v. Dynegy, 16 Inc., 375 F.3d 831, 838, as amended, 387 F.3d 966 (9th Cir. 2004), cert. denied 544 U.S. 974 17 (2005). The “presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the ‘well-pleaded 18 19 complaint rule,’ which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is 20 presented on the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint.” Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392. 21 Removal cannot be based on a defense, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third party claim raising a 22 federal question, whether filed in state court or federal court. See Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 23 U.S. 49, 60–61 (2009); Hunter v. Philip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042–43 (9th Cir. 2009). 24 III. ANALYSIS 25 Defendant removed the instant action to this Court on the basis of federal question 26 jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1 at 2–3.) Defendant argues that jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 27 /// 28 /// 2 1 1441(a) or (b).1 (ECF No. 1 at 2.) For jurisdiction to exist under § 1441(a), a federal question 2 must be presented on the face of the plaintiff’s properly pleaded complaint. Caterpillar, 482 U.S. 3 at 392. Here, Defendant states without explanation that the “complaint presents federal 4 questions.” (ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶ 5.) However, Plaintiffs’ complaint for unlawful detainer does not 5 present a federal question on its face. See, e.g., DVP, LP v. Champ, No. 1:15-cv-00074-LJO- 6 SKO, 2015 WL 12681672, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 29, 2015) (“[A]n unlawful detainer action, on its 7 face, fails to raise a federal question.”). Defendant further claims that her Answer implicates 8 federal questions because it requires a “determination of Defendant’s rights and Plaintiff’s [sic] 9 duties under federal law.” (ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶ 8.) An answer cannot confer federal question 10 jurisdiction on this Court. See Vaden, 556 U.S. at 60 (explaining federal jurisdiction can neither 11 be “predicated on an actual or anticipated defense” nor “rest upon an actual or anticipated 12 counterclaim”). To the extent Defendant’s notice of removal seeks removal on the basis of Section 13 14 1441(b), this too fails. Section 1441(b) allows for a case to be removed to federal court on the 15 basis of diversity jurisdiction if the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) are met. Section 1332(a) 16 confers diversity jurisdiction “where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of 17 $75,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between — (1) citizens of different States.” In an 18 unlawful detainer action, only the right to possession of the property is at issue, not the title. See 19 Deutsche Bank Nat’l Trust Co. v. Yanez, ED-15-CV-02462-VAP-DTBx, 2016 WL 591752, at *2 20 (C.D. Cal. February 11, 2016) (citing Evans v. Superior Court, 67 Cal. App. 3d 162, 170 (1977)). 21 Consequently, the amount in controversy is determined by the amount sought in the complaint. 22 See id. Here, Defendant fails to meet the $75,000 threshold as Plaintiffs seek less than $10,000 in 23 their complaint. (See ECF No. 1-1 at 3.) 24 25 Thus, Defendant has failed to establish the burden of showing that jurisdiction before this Court is proper, and it is appropriate to remand this case, sua sponte, for lack of federal 26 27 28 1 Defendant fails to explain how or why subject matter jurisdiction exists under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). In fact, other than Defendant’s passing mention of §1441(b), Defendant fails to discuss diversity jurisdiction. Nonetheless, this Court discusses below why removal is improper under §1441(b). 3 1 jurisdiction. See United Investors Life Ins. Co. v. Waddell & Reed Inc., 360 F.3d 960, 967 (9th 2 Cir. 2004) (“[T]he district court ha[s] a duty to establish subject matter jurisdiction over the 3 removed action sua sponte, whether the parties raised the issue or not.”). 4 IV. 5 For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby REMANDS this action to the Superior Court 6 of California, County of Sacramento. In removing this case, Defendant filed a motion to proceed 7 in forma pauperis. (See ECF No. 2.) The Court has reviewed this motion and finds that 8 Defendant meets the requirements of in forma pauperis status and thus GRANTS Defendant’s 9 request. 10 CONCLUSION IT IS SO ORDERED. 11 12 Dated: May 26, 2017 13 14 Troy L. Nunley United States District Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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